Since so many punters in Canada worry whether online betting is legal in their country, we need to make this clear at the very beginning. There isn’t a law that makes online sports betting, or any other kind of online gambling, illegal for Canadian players. Until this day, we haven’t heard of a single case when a punter was convicted or prosecuted for playing on online betting platforms. As mentioned in our article on the legality of online gambling, any sportsbook located in Canada is required to have a license, however, there are plenty of offshore sportsbooks that are perfectly legal and safe to play at.
Ever since the first sportsbooks appeared, the gambling laws have gone through a series of modifications. The situation wasn’t always great, and there were certain periods when this exciting pastime was frowned upon by a large part of the Canadian public. Fortunately, today, gambling law doesn’t leave any space for ambiguous interpretations. You’re free to bet as much as you want, on whatever sport you choose.
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The History of Gambling Regulations in Canada
It might be difficult to fully understand the current legal system in Canada without knowing some basic facts and turning points from its history. Every generation of lawmakers left their unique mark, and the laws they passed say a lot about the trends of their time. Widely accepted by the majority of Canadians, gambling managed to survive all periodical efforts of certain conservative groups to suppress it.
Back in 1892, the Canadian Criminal Code saw the light of day. Even though it was a big achievement at the time, and very similar to other criminal codes throughout the world, it made gambling, in all its forms, illegal. Initially, the state officials had done their best to strictly enforce the law, but as time went by, it was becoming obvious that significant modifications are needed sooner rather than later.
And that’s what happened a few years later. During the first five years of the 20th century, bingo and raffle games were legalized. Approximately a decade later, it wasn’t against the law to bet on horse races anymore. As more and more people began to bet regularly, the government was quick to recognize the huge potential of this exciting industry. Consequently, various kinds of provincial and federal lotteries appeared during the mid-1960s.
Winds of Change
After the 1985 law reform, all the most popular forms of betting were decriminalized, and the era of absolute freedom and rapid development could begin. During the following years, all sorts of gambling establishments appeared throughout the country, and sportsbooks began attracting an unprecedented number of new punters. Being traditionally very fond of sports and physical activity, Canadians finally had a chance to regularly bet on their favourite teams.
Betting Laws in Canadian Provinces
Even though every Canadian province has an admirable level of autonomy to pass and enforce its laws and legislations, when it comes to online betting, they all follow the same, federal pattern. The Canada-based online sportsbooks are very rare, and the majority of punters opt for international offshore betting sites. All gambling activities are monitored by provincial regulatory bodies, and this is what it looks like in practice:
- Alberta — Since 2013 and its latest modification, all betting activities in Alberta happen according to the Gaming and Liquor Act. There aren’t any locally-based online betting sites, and the minimum gambling age is 18.
- British Columbia — The work of online sportsbooks in British Columbia is defined by the Gaming Control Act of 2012. There are a few local sports betting sites, but they aren’t truly popular. The legal gambling age in this province is 19.
- Manitoba — The Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba and the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation oversee the online gambling industry in this province. Punters have to be at least 18 to gamble legally.
- New Brunswick — The Atlantic Lottery Corporation and the New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Corporation monitor the online betting market in this province. There are a few locally-based betting sites that operate at the moment, and you have to be at least 19 to access them legally.
- Newfoundland and Labrador — The Lottery Licensing Regulation from 2002 defines all sports betting activities in this province. To bet legally, you have to be at least 19 years old.
- Nova Scotia — The Gambling Control Act passed in 1995 regulates the work of all online bookmakers in Nova Scotia. The minimum betting age in this province is 19.
- Ontario — Ever since it was established in 1998, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has overseen all sports betting activities in this province. People below the age of 19 are not allowed to gamble.
- Prince Edward Island — The Prince Edward Island Lottery Commission monitors the online betting market in this province, and the minimum gambling age is 19.
- Quebec — State-run lotteries are very popular in Quebec, and their work is overseen by the Quebec Alcohol, Racing and Gaming Commission. This gambling authority has existed since 1993, and the legal gambling age in this province is 18.
- Saskatchewan — All gambling activities, including online sports betting, are monitored by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. Locally-based online sportsbooks are very rare, and you have to be at least 19 to gamble legally in this province.
Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake
On the outskirts of Montreal lies the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, and from a legal standpoint, this place has a special status in Canada. To be precise, its gambling laws aren’t influenced by federal lawmakers in any way, and they’re known as the most liberal in the entire country.
This region is the promised land for all aspiring online operators. If they manage to obtain the license issued by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, they become a part of an elite online betting community. The local regulatory body stands for one of the most demanding in the entire world. Therefore, those who end up being authorized in Kahnawake can proudly say they satisfy the highest standards of the online betting industry.
How to Bet Legally Online in Canada
If you want to make sure all your online sports betting activities are following the current gambling laws, there are only a few things you should pay attention to. First of all, you need to make certain the betting site you have chosen holds a viable licence. If the gambling platform has a logo of one of the prominent gambling authorities on its homepage, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s licensed.
You should check the number and the expiry date of the licence. These won’t take you too long to find, because all betting platforms have to make this data public. Even if everything seems legit at this point, you still need to spend a few minutes asking around. Try to google the sportsbook’s name to see what other players have to say about it. There are many forums and online gambling communities that could provide useful answers.
If you don’t find anything suspicious, feel free to embark on your betting adventure. In general, it’s always better to check everything in advance and avoid any possible misunderstandings and inconveniences. Perhaps the best option would be to always choose international offshore betting sites because they’re not subject to local gambling laws. Hence, no one can hold you accountable for betting in one of those.
Prominent International Regulatory Bodies
Talking of licensing, you should know what the most reliable international gambling authorities are. If they approve a sports betting site, you can rest assured it meets all the highest standards of the online gambling industry. They are as follows:
- The Government of Curacao — A licence issued by the government of Curacao covers all forms of interactive iGaming.
- The UK Gambling Commission — Being one of the most reliable gambling authorities, the UK Gambling Commission has a whole set of rigorous requirements that need to be met to get ahold of its licence.
- The Gibraltar Gaming Commissioner — Some of the most famous online betting platforms hold this licence, and many operators claim it’s the most difficult to obtain.
- The Malta Gaming Authority — Being the main regulatory body in Malta, the MGA regulates both land-based and online gambling operators.
The online sports betting industry in Canada is highly regulated, and there isn’t much space for improvisation. Operators follow strict rules and stick with predetermined procedures. Most Canadian punters opt for international offshore betting sites because they offer a wide variety of bets, bonuses, and promotions. No current law prohibits online sports betting in Canada, and players can enjoy their favourite free time activity as much as they want.
Are online sportsbooks legal in Canada?
Yes, placing a bet in an online sportsbook is perfectly legal in Canada. Currently, there are no regulations that prohibit this type of gambling.
What is the legal gambling age in Canada?
This might depend on the province you live in. In most cases, you have to be at least 19 to gamble legally in Canada. However, there are a few provinces in which 18-year-olds are allowed to place bets online.
Is ice hockey betting legal in Canada?
Yes, according to current gambling laws, all forms of online sports betting, including ice hockey betting, are legal.
What are the most popular sports betting sites in Canada?
At the moment, the international offshore sports betting sites are among the most popular in Canada. Their offer is simply way above the industry’s average, and the Canadian punters were quick to recognize this.
Can punters in Canada get any bonuses?
Yes. Many online sportsbooks offer lucrative bonuses and promotions for Canadian players.